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Monday, May 16, 2011

Ode to Suddenly


By RW Richard

On page 136 of the paperback, “Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us, A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing Is Being Rejected,” the author, Jessica Page Morrel writes, “I discover suddenly in most manuscripts I read, and it’s never necessary. Things that happen unexpectedly don’t need to be explained as being sudden; the reader will understand this phenomenon. Suddenly a loud sound shattered the silence . . . Or “Look” Alan shouted suddenly . . .”

Now wait, one self-serving minute. I know, suddenly, you don’t want to read on. You wonder about my sanity or worse yet about my authorlyness (yep, made that word up). At this point I’d like to recommend picking up a copy of New York Times Bestselling Author, Barbara Delinsky’s, romance titled, Suddenly. Sorry, I have not read the whole thing (as yet). Two suddenlys lurk in chapter one. But, isn’t it, as a title, good enough to make my point? Do we need to rip from the rich English language this poor snibbling word? Might we get rid of tragically, randomly, beautiful? How about, It was a dark and stormy night? Hell, throw-em all out, but beware of dead prose promising a good sleep for the reader. And what does a reader want? Generally, they don’t put down a novel over our affectations. Most readers feel the whole, we analyze the parts.

Might there be times when using suddenly is called for? Are there times when a writer uses the word to describe the excitement of the situation? And during those times, if a writer wanted to build excitement, is there an any more concise way of enriching the sentence, giving it power, giving it meaning? Why does nearly every published author use suddenly (sparingly) during their masterpieces (almost as a dare to the unwashed)?

Let’s try to think up kinder examples. Let’s say you have a novel with twists and turns, a page turner. Everything is normal. The hero is solving a crime, yep time after time he’s surprised, but always manages to Karate-chop or shoot his way out. Why, because he anticipates. He’s always weary. That’s why when his nine-year-old son suddenly drives a knife into his chest while they munched together watching the Super Bowl, you shriek.

By the way, I don’t use suddenly in my novels, but I’ve always wanted to be good enough. Someday when I ‘m a world famous author, I’ll sneak one in, once in a while.

Maybe I’ll start the first words on the first page of chapter one of my masterpiece with, “Suddenly, it was a dark and stormy night,” and then spend the rest of the novel trying to justify the beginning.

In the Dimwit’s Dictionary, find “suddenly and without warning A wretched redundancy. . . . impetuously; impulsively; spontaneously; suddenly; unexpectedly; without warning.” Consider this. These words are not exactly interchangeable. What shade of meaning differentiates them?

Is everything simply black ink on white pages or might you see color?

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